Did you hear the one about the polar bear that walks into a bar?

I didn’t.


“What? Speak up son or I’ll have to shoot you!”

In fact, I don’t hear a lot of jokes people tell. Many of you are aware that, while I am far from deaf, I am hearing impaired. I have a severe discernment problem. That is, I have trouble discriminating between many consonants and vowels. For instance, e,t,p,c,d,g,z and b all sound the same to me when quickly spoken. That’s true also with n and m, s and f, y and i and a and k. If the person I’m conversing with is not speaking slowly and very clearly (sadly, proper diction is a lost art in this hurry up world we live in), these letters all mesh together to become indecipherable to my ears.

This has been happening slowly over the past 25 years and only gets worse with time. It’s frustrating, embarrassing and if a person allowed it, would cause them to withdraw from social interaction. I won’t.

That’s why I appreciate my blogging and Facebook friends so much. You are my contact with the outside world without the stress of straining to understand or having to ask for someone to repeat something a seemingly interminable number of times. Because of you, my desire, nay, my need, to communicate is steadfastly satisfied. And before you ask, hearing aids do not help much with this particular problem. It’s not about volume, but rather particular combinations of letters that, if not spoken very clearly, are difficult to understand. I know, I’ve tried them all.


Can you hear me now?

I know most of you have experienced the group game where 10 people sit in a line. The first person whispers a story into the ear of the person sitting next to him. That person then whispers the same story to the person next to him and so on down the line. By the time it gets to the 10th person it is completely different from the initial story. Well, I can do that with just two people! What a guy, huh?

However, by necessity, I’ve developed a pretty impressive repertoire of generic facial expressions and verbal responses to cover the fact that I haven’t quite understood a conversation. You’d be amazed at how often a simple smile or expression of surprise or amazement fits perfectly with whatever anyone says. You can determine which to use by the way the person delivers their comment. And “yep” “hmmm” and “sure” are my go-to retorts if a facial expression won’t do it. In desperate situations, an outright lie like “I get where you’re coming from…” generally bails me out.

Big Al

“Wow. I get where you’re coming from …..”

But it’s not all bad. Sometimes, conversations become more like comedy routines. When I repeat back my wife or family what I think I heard, it is so far from the actual that we can’t help but laugh. Abbott and Costello would have been proud of me. I often say that I might take up learning another language so I can misunderstand people in two languages!

The phone is the worst. When speaking face to face, I can at least read lips to help me pick up words. Not so on the phone. Accents are particularly hard for me, as you can imagine. In fact, why don’t we revisit one of my recent conversations with a technician helping me with a computer problem.

Tech: “Hello, with whom am I speaking?”

Me: “No, my room is not leaking, but thanks for asking. I’m calling with a computer problem.”

Tech:  “Software you’re using?”

Me: “No, I don’t suffer when I sing, other people do. Why do you need to know that?”

Tech: “Are you Windows?”

Me: “No I’m not widowed, I’m still married This is getting too personal. Can we just fix my computer?”

Tech: “Alright, do you mind if we use remote access?”

Me: “Ramon’s axes? No, I want to fix it, not destroy it. Goodbye!”

I think you see the problem.

This has been a long-winded way to tell you how much I enjoy bantering with all of you using social media. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me.

So anyway, this polar bear walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender and says “I’d like a gin…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….and tonic!” The bartender replies: “OK, but why the big paws?”





Cartoon courtesy: Dave Shelton at OUTPOURINGS FROM AN UNTIDY MIND.